Le Pen, Trump, dark times

Written By: - Date published: 8:52 am, December 10th, 2015 - 73 comments
Categories: Europe, International, us politics - Tags: , ,

As the world meets in Paris, in desperate need of sanity and unity, the tides of political madness seem to be rising everywhere.

Take Europe – an excellent piece by Rafael Behr in The Guardian:

As Le Pen rises Europe’s liberal dream is disappearing in front of our eyes

When Jean-Marie Le Pen made it into the second round of the 2002 French presidential election, part of the horror many voters felt was in seeing, in stark light, a face of the nation that had previously been in shadow. “It means people we know voted for the Front National,” a shaken friend and supporter of the Socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin, told me at the time. …

The near certainty that Le Pen’s daughter will be a presidential contender for 2017 is shocking in a different way, landing with the banal thud of grim inevitability. Marine Le Pen saunters through French politics emanating the sharp smell of professionally laundered fascism. She has distanced herself and her party from the brutish style of her father, jettisoning explicit racism, colonising the political space where his extreme position shades into mainstream respectability. After a triumphant showing in the first round of regional elections last weekend, the Front National claims to be France’s main opposition party.

But France is not an exception. A long malaise in continental liberal democracy is beginning to feel more like decline. …

Read on for a discussion of several example countries, grim but fascinating.

And, of course, America:

Donald Trump is an actual fascist: What his surging popularity says about the GOP base

The word “fascist” has been abused by the left over the years. But a look at Trump’s rhetoric shows scary parallels

In the political discussion of today, there always comes a risk of being discounted as a crackpot when using a word like “fascist” to describe a political opponent. The word, much like “socialist,” has been so abused since the fall of fascism that it lost its meaning quite some time ago. …

In a recent article by Jeffrey Tucker, however, it is argued, quite justly in my opinion, that Donald Trump, whether he knows it or not, is a fascist (or is at least acting like one). Much like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump is a demagogue dedicated to riling up the people (particularly conservatives) with race baiting, traditionalism and strongman tough talk — and, according to polls, it’s working — for now.

That was written way back in July, since then Trump’s dominance of the polls has increased significantly, and his hate-speech against Muslims has become unhinged: Utterly repellent and malignant: world reacts to Trump’s anti-Muslim tirade.

These are dark times for sanity. In closing I want to go back to the first piece (Behr) quoted above:

No two countries have exactly analogous politics, but common threads run across Europe. The unifying dynamic appears to be the interaction of financial insecurity and the cultural detachment of governing elites from the governed. From Paris to Warsaw, politicians of the technocratic centre are perceived as a caste apart, professionally complacent, insulated by hoarded privilege from the anxiety provoked in electorates by economic turbulence and abrupt demographic change. On to that canvas is then projected the spectre of terrorism, smuggled into the body politic by refugees from predominantly Muslim countries.

What makes this resurgent nationalism so hard to defuse is the panache with which it sports the robes of popular democracy – as indeed nationalism has always done.

I’m not suggesting that NZ is there yet. But there are echoes.


trump-furor

(Philadelphia Daily News)

73 comments on “Le Pen, Trump, dark times”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Trump may get the GOP nomination – that is in itself a tragedy. He has no show of winning a presidential election. On current polling.

    I expect Daesh (also fascists) – given their avowed commitment to chaos – can think of ways to try and increase his popularity.

    • RedLogix 1.1

      On the basis of current polling yes. But there is another long year before the USA votes and chaos will only strengthen Trump’s hand.

      And Clinton herself is a challenging figure. Yes she would be the first female US President and this would be an outcome to be proud of. But it also her Achilles Heel in a society disfigured by Christian fundamentalism, rent by internal gender and culture wars, and disillusioned with the political classes she so visibly represents.

      So while in the usual course of events you should be correct OAB … part of me cannot assign a non-zero probability to Trump becoming a new Caesar.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1

        Neither did I. I said he has no show on current polling, and that I expect Daesh are hoping to turn that around for him.

        • Ad 1.1.1.1

          It would only take a couple more non-European mass-death nut-jobs on US soil to really shove up his popularity and force the full GOP machinery behind him.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.1.1

            Perhaps, perhaps not – for one thing the US electorate must have some sort of maximum stupidity level – and Trump may have already scraped that barrel dry.

            • Ad 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Win or lose either the nomination or the Presidency, Trump has certainly permanently changed American politics. Goldwater didn’t even come close to this.

              There’s a set of unique dynamics that come in to play when one chooses the full populist route. See Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power, which analysed not only the populist orchestration set running prior to World War Two, but also of the massed left and anti-war demonstrations into the 1950s.

              Trump only has a few of the skills needed to really drive oratory to where it would need to go, and his campaign machinery is small and independent compared to the full GOP capacity and its Superpac forces. Far too early to Godwin yet, and he’s only getting started. Plenty upside to go yet for him, and he knows it.

              Whereas Marie Le Pen’s crowd are different. They bring in not only the usual southern French crowd, and its huge retired military base, but also pull huge support from Parisian gays and other minorities who are seeking the party with the strongest resistance to threats to their very existence.

              • Grindlebottom

                I liked a description I read somewhere that Trump is basically a more experienced & media-savvy version of Sarah Palin. That his appeal is driven by simple answers to over-simplified questions, an insistence that all politicians are corrupt idiots, railing against political correctness, and the constant refrain that ordinary folks are getting screwed. Plus he’s not a politician, and he’s a celebrity, and in the US celebrity counts as ridiculously important with so many stupid people.

                While I hope he never gets elected President I agree it looks likely he’ll get the Republican nomination at the moment. Because he’s been roundly attacked by so many other politicians for his ban the muslims outbursts the next few polls are going to be particularly interesting to see whether that counts for or against him.

              • miravox

                “Whereas Marie Le Pen’s crowd are different. They bring in not only the usual southern French crowd…”

                I was in the South of France over the weekend. As expected, the security was tight – military at the airports, bag checks in public places etc., etc.

                But Monday morning, after the election results, it was a whole different ball game. Military actively patrolling lots of streets and lots private security (some dressed in military-like gear). It seemed there was a new game in town – a noticeable upping of security presence with no notice of an increased threat beyond that of the day before. Very disconcerting.

                • North

                  Oh Miravox you lucky bugger…..in the South of France. Where in Cavalaire-Sur-Mer 25 km from St Tropez I did a summer season OE job in a domestic French camping ground. 35 years ago. Wonderful memories !

                  • miravox

                    Yes, very lucky indeed. We had a great weekend. But just to make you feel better about it – it rained. A lot.

                    Cavalaire-Sur-Mer looks good – a great costal walk there too. Maybe next time we’ll have a look at that.

      • One Two 1.1.2

        Hillary as president would be nothing to be proud of. She is a disgraceful human being

        This mentality that people should feel content at achieving a ‘first’ no matter the circumstances, is purile leftist nonsense

  2. RedLogix 2

    In both the American and French cases, the rise of the populist fascist is the direct result of the political classes isolation from ordinary people and their concerns.

    The right is entirely the tool of a tiny uber-wealthy minority; the left fractured into a menagerie of competing interests much of the electorate either does not identify with or is suspicious of.

    The extreme polarisation of the political debate has paralysed and degraded the political process – such that most people are utterly disengaged from it. But this is not the same as unaffected by it – and while the mass of voters remain apathetic the paralysis can be sustained.

    But now the mass of voters sense imminent change, and they are no longer of a habit nor mood to listen to conventional voices. Now is the moment of the populist demagogue. It actually matters little whether they articulate left or right wing policy; their power is derived directly from their repudiation of the status quo, and promises of restoration.

    • ropata 2.1

      Trump is just a symptom of the slow implosion of the GOP. There’s been a popular backlash to Trump across the UK

      “He’s portraying a stupefying ignorance that makes him unfit to be President.” @MayorofLondon on @realDonaldTrump https://t.co/fQlPLRFcgv— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) December 9, 2015

      http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/08/donald-trump-anti-muslim-ban-world-reacts

      http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/trumpfacts-britons-react-hilariously-on-twitter-to-donald-trump-s-radicalised-london-comments-a3133686.html

    • Ad 2.2

      Curious then the many countries that extremism hasn’t caught on.

      Canada, UK, Australia – even Greece. They have had plenty of multicultural pressure over the last few decades, but the far right have got essentially nowhere.

      It’s not enough to say that the left is splintering and inchoate, and the right have all the money, therefore the moneyed demagogues are always going to win.

      I don’t think the reasons for the rise of Trump and Le Pen are the same.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1

        Well put. I note Canada just rejected a wingnut loon.

      • RedLogix 2.2.2

        I suspect both of you are mis-reading my contention. It is not the rise of right-wing extremism which is the essential feature here. It is the rapidly opening door which has been folded inside a largely silent and hidden majority opening to embrace a populist demagogues such as Trump.

        Will this happen everywhere at the same time? No. But we do often see it happen in the fading days of once powerful imperial nations.

        • Ad 2.2.2.1

          I just don’t see Trump as any signal of US weakness of decline.

          Win or lose, Trump will certainly shunt US foreign relations permanently rightward again, further than the Bush II Presidency. When Trump wins the nomination, I would anticipate a GOP Congress and House to signal that foreign wars are simply unaffordable. Same signal to Clinton.

          But under either Clinton or Trump as President, I think the US military will double down on airpower, missiles, tech-attacks, sabotage, drones and naval deployment. Their militarized empire will shrink, but only by ‘boots on the ground’.

          I also see ISIS, trade agreements, and climate change providing steadily growing motives for international cooperation. Call me odd, but the UN may well be the big winner out of all of them.

          • RedLogix 2.2.2.1.1

            I also see ISIS, trade agreements, and climate change providing steadily growing motives for international cooperation. Call me odd, but the UN may well be the big winner out of all of them.

            I understand this. There is always more than one process at work at a time. What may be visible on the surface, may well have a counter-current under it.

            But whether or not it is Trump, or Le Pen who attain power, is less important that the fact they are rapidly demolishing layers of taboos Western politics has largely observed about populist fascism since WW2.

            • greywarshark 2.2.2.1.1.1

              Slavoj Zizek turns over the received wisdom about PC’ness. He says thatby not speaking or seeing what is reality to you and what you think, is a different form of totalatarianism. The English text is shown, and if the image is distracting, you can listen and work on another link at the same time.

              He gives an example to the situation where if your boss is very nice to you and friendly the power difference between you becomes more impenetrable.

              He seems to be saying that the taboos that have been accepted have not smothered the differences between people, but they remain hidden widely unnoticed but ready to flourish again.

              Tom Lehrer handles it in National Brotherhood Week. In his own inimitable style. He points out past religious conflicts, the Protestants hated the Catholics and showed vice in versa, the Hindus v the Muslims, and everyone hated the Jews (his religion.)

              Then having a go at the Catholics – the Vatican Rag

              Now you can’t criticise anyone without having the virtual ruler put over your knuckles. And the old problems rise again, like vampires that can never be vanquished without sunlight shining on them.

            • Ad 2.2.2.1.1.2

              True. It will almost certainly re-align activist forces, including within the left.

      • Pat 2.2.3

        extremism didn’t “catch on” in all countries in the20/30s either….didnt prevent it from causing the odd problem or two

    • Pat 2.3

      much like the inter war period of the last century…..similar result?

  3. Olwyn 3

    Chris Hedges, while concentrating on the US, is thinking along similar lines:

    We have entered a new and dangerous phase in American political life. The ruling political elites have been exposed as charlatans. The rage of the underclass, especially the white underclass, has broken its bonds. The age of the demagogues has arrived. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_age_of_the_demagogues_20151129

    He seems to think that the breakdown of institutions, intended to protect the weak from the strong, have removed the conditions that would contain a potential demagogue. And New Zealanders should not be too complacent either – we too have the breakdown of institutional restraints, a leader that laughs such matters off, and an increasing number of people yearning for relief from hardship, anxiety and exclusion. People generally driving on the recommended side of the road, and frozen peas sitting tidily in supermarket freezers are not a reliable indication that all is well.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      Yes. That expresses the argument. This is less about left and right than it is about the failure of politics altogether.

    • Ad 3.2

      It’s just too early to start calling Mussolini on this.
      The reach for unlikely comparisons is getting stranger.

      A weekend ago the left were fully united on the streets.
      When was the last time you saw a right wing march in the streets?
      The right can hardly fill a small hall in Te Atatu with young darlings rattling their pearls at the Lovely Man.

      • Olwyn 3.2.1

        A weekend ago the left were fully united on the streets.

        And a few days ago, someone was made minister for climate change who declares this to be a subject about which she knows nothing. To my mind, this move was an act of hubris – a “what are you going to do about it then?” sneer, at both the left and those who purport to represent them. Moreover, given that this minister has overseen restrictions on benefits, and has moved onto apply the same formula to housing, it suggests that climate change may well be used as the excuse for further bullying of the vulnerable, again with a “what are you going to do about it?” sneer.

        This shows a political class that feels free to laugh at those they don’t think they need, however united on the street they may be. It sees no need either to bow to institutional restraints, as is shown by the manner in which Judith Collins has been ‘cleared’ of wrongdoing and returned to the ministerial fold. The frustration brought about by such license opens the door to demagogic saviours, while the reduced power of institutions prevents such saviours from being contained. I do not say we are there yet, but I do say we are permitting the preconditions for such an occurrence.

      • I saw the Right Wing Resistance assemble at a park in Christchurch. By the time you add the many who went to the counter protest including myself, and the police contingent, you could just about fill a hall.

      • BM 3.2.3

        This is where you’re failing some what.

        1) Right leaning people don’t march, it’s a waste of time and it’s the height of wankery.

        2) Right leaning people aren’t politically active they save it for elections.

        3) Right leaning people leave it to the politicians and get on with life.

        • Ad 3.2.3.1

          Le Pen and Trump show that to be totally wrong.

          • BM 3.2.3.1.1

            Not in NZ.
            The right here have no interest in protesting.

            • Ad 3.2.3.1.1.1

              That’s because they are in power.

              Or did you miss:
              – “enough’s enough”
              – fart tax protests
              – anti smacking
              – truckie tax protests
              – foreshore and seabed protests
              – massive anti got litigation
              Etc etc

              Do you live under a rock?

              • Ad

                Gov’t not got

              • BM

                “Enough’s enough”?, is that the one where there was a protest against John Banks when he was mayor of Auckland, couple of thousand, but seriously, right leaning people protesting against a right leaning mayor?

                Anti smacking = Mainly religious groups, numbered in the 100’s

                Foreshore and seabed protests – Maori sovereignty issues nothing to do with right leaning people.

                Fart tax protests, truckie tax protests = business interest protests, numbered in the hundreds

                Generally right wing people have very little interest in protest, that’s a left wing past time.

                • Ad

                  “enough is enough” is where there were spectacular parades with guys in black shirts punching the air, organized by Destiny Church.

                  The Anti-Smacking marches were indeed organized by mostly Christian groups – by and large the very definition of right wing in this country.

                  Great you think Maori have no right wing, and there was no right wing element to those marches.

                  All you are doing is trying to write a history of political activism as if the right-leaning are the status quo and the left-leaning are the rabble, something like that sad little book from 40 years ago, ‘The Passionless People”. It’s just ass.

                  • tracey

                    status quo, apathetic, antichange, seeking comfort no matter how much it hurts them or those around them…. and that is the kind of attitude that has us where we are today… but then BM is wanting to wait until climate change results in personal catastrophes before accepting it is real – AND THAT is the right wing supporters mantra, as long as *I* am fine, I am happy with what we have. Unless it’s Labour

            • tracey 3.2.3.1.1.2

              They DO NOT leave it to politicians, they lobby them and pay them so they don’t need to march. You can’t be this blind surely BM?

              • BM

                I’m talking about your average right leaning voter.
                Not wealthy business people or conservative religious fundamentalists.

                As you probably know.
                https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results

                • tracey

                  who don’t need t march because others are doing the work for them to ensure they feel comfortable and represented.

                  Your link, for example, stops you from caring that our Governemtn is obstructing OIA’s and has slowly undermined personal liberties through its use of fear (most otably ISIS). So, your posting of the link = QED

        • miravox 3.2.3.2

          The right do a lot more than march when they feel threatened. That authoritarian streak is long and strong.

      • Puddleglum 3.2.4

        Hi Ad,

        In an interesting sense, the arguments you have made about some on the left being too pessimistic about the prospects of ‘centrist leftism’ and its appeal to the ‘mainstream’ themselves imply support for the argument that a kind of disenchanted populist wave is lapping against the established political order.

        That is, If such disenchantment with ‘normal’ politics wasn’t the case then you would not have to be making these arguments.

        These are not moderate times. Even established political parties are incorporating the rhetoric and positioning of – and trying to co-opt – just this frustration with ‘moderate’ business as usual politics. Note the recent rhetoric of Abbott, Cameron, Harper and our own Prime Minister’s strange parliamentary displays over ISIS and deportees from Australia.

        Even the popularity of Little’s ‘cut the crap’ comment is an indication of the same, disenchanted sentiment and of mainstream politicians’ sense that they need to tap that frustration.

        In this environment ‘the centre cannot hold’.

        • Ad 3.2.4.1

          I like that argument, and I disagree, so let me divide that up into bits.

          I would make a clear distinction between “enlightened”, “modernist” and “left”.

          I’m all three, but they have really different roles in how I analyze things.

          1. My tradition is part of the Enlightenment – that is, the rationality of proof and of science should be allowed to run free and banish all superstition wherever it likes, and enables the vast machinery of invention and inventiveness to make our lives so much richer. It’s been going on for a fair few centuries, it’s helped generate the best works of art of the western world and its great industrial surge. My cultural traditions and my life are far and away better for it. And I believe it’s worth defending.

          Enlightenment rationality is anti-extremism.

          2. My professional and aesthetic sensibility is modernist – that is, the development of the state as the primary large-scale identifier and organizer of humanity provides all kinds of distributive and specializing mechanisms that enable this thing called policy to happen.

          Modernism sure has its faults as the last century shows, but the match between Enlightement and Modernity has propelled the developed world into lived sophistication that the world has never known.

          Modernism gives the sinew and propulsive force to Enlightenment principles.

          3. I’m left. That means I want there to be as little as possible inequality, no poverty, and a common wealth guaranteed by the modernist state and enlightenment rationality.

          Which is a long winded way of saying that those three things together stop me believing that extremism is called for now. To me it’s a matter of principle. And when I see thousands of people on the streets protesting peacefully and engaged in all kinds of generative and generous activism, or negotiating treaties, I know others believe as I do.

    • Grindlebottom 3.3

      That’s odd. I got to read page 1 of your article at 3 above Olwyn (very interesting) but the browser wouldn’t open page 2, and now my browser just hangs when I click on your link or on any other article on truthdig.com. Works fine on all other sites. (Could be the NSA I s’pose….)

      • Olwyn 3.3.1

        Hi Grindlebottom: I just tried it again and it still works for me. I am using firefox, I don’t know whether that makes a difference.

        • Grindlebottom 3.3.1.1

          Cheers Olwyn. Yes it does make a difference. I can access it with Firefox but not with Chrome.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.4

      That probably explains why National and FJK are so popular ATM.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    The Bully’s Pulpit
    On the elementary structure of domination

    Sooner or later, every project for human freedom will have to comprehend why we accept societies being ranked and ordered by violence and domination to begin with. And it strikes me that our visceral reaction to weakness and cowardice, our strange reluctance to identify with even the most justifiable forms of fear, might provide a clue.

    Perhaps the problem is that we’re all scared and just don’t want to show it.

    • Ad 4.1

      I’m not.
      Are you?

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        Not particularly although I do have concerns for the future especially if we continue to allow and encourage such bullying as we see:

        But if we are ever going to move toward a genuinely free society, then we’re going to have to recognize how the triangular and mutually constitutive relationship of bully, victim, and audience really works, and then develop ways to combat it.

    • tracey 4.2

      How many women have allegedly gone off to become Jihadi Brides? Less than 12 apparently, but look at the fear it has sowed.

      People who are fearful cling to the status quo and hanker for the imagned old days. That si right wing territory right there. The fear doesn’t have to be real, people just have to think it is,

  5. Ad 5

    If half the nations railing against Trump practised what they preached about Christians who are ruthlessly oppressed in their own countries, I’d have even more sympathy for them. Decreasing actual torture of Christians in Muslim countries is more real than a mere US candidates’ frothing.

    Al Jazeera is going particularly weird on it.

    • Steve Wrathall 5.1

      Exactly. How much non-Muslim immigration do AJ’s gulf paymasters allow? But a US candidate suggests that his country pushes pause on the importation of an ideology that is incompatible with women/gay rights & democracy and the Media Party wigs out.

    • tracey 5.2

      People are hypocrites but hate equally. Whodday thunkit.

  6. greywarshark 6

    Slavoj Zizek turns over the received wisdom about PC’ness. He says that not speaking or seeing what is reality to you and what you think, is a different form of totalatarianism. (The English text is shown, and if the image is distracting, you can listen and work on another link at the same time.)

    He gives an example of the situation where if your boss is very nice to you and friendly the power difference between you becomes more impenetrable.

    He seems to be saying that the taboos that have been accepted have not smothered the differences between people, but they remain hidden widely unnoticed but ready to flourish again.

    Tom Lehrer handles it in National Brotherhood Week. In his own inimitable style. He points out past religious conflicts, the Protestants hated the Catholics and showed vice in versa, the Hindus v the Muslims, and everyone hated the Jews (his religion.)

    Then having a go at the Catholics – the Vatican Rag

    Now you can’t criticise anyone without having the virtual ruler put over your knuckles. And the old problems rise again, like vampires that can never be vanquished without sunlight shining on them.
    edited

  7. joe90 7

    Bloke has a crack.

    Iyad El-Baghdadi
    ‏@iyad_elbaghdadi

    What’s causing the global rise of right wing “populism”? This is from a previous discussion.

    • vto 7.1

      “majoritarianism”

      That is a good line.

      The tyranny of the masses, a-la 1930’s Germany and 2015 USA and France.

    • miravox 7.2

      An interesting synthesis of views

      Number 1 needs a bit more depth – as some commenters there point out, it’s not the ‘intermixing’ that appears to be a problem, it’s when the ‘intermixing’ doesn’t happen or is when there is a fear of migrants rather than there being actual migrants.

      Numbers 4, 5, and 6 are a bit problematic. 4 and 6 may be contradicting each other.

      I’d add a 12 – increased presence of authoritarian christianity in politics, particularly the in US.

  8. millsy 8

    Is Trump really any worse than the other GOP contenders?

  9. acrophobic 9

    The reason the extreme right is gaining traction is simple. Islamic oppression and aggression against the west. This is the inconvenient truth. Since the 1970’s there have been 69 attacks by Islamic terrorists on the UK and 82 on the US. This is in addition to the hundreds of attacks by Islamic terrorists in Europe, the middle east and elsewhere.

    Those who blame western foreign policy for these outrages simply don’t understand Islam. It is the philosophy of wahhabism that drives groups such as daesh, along with the concept of jihad, embedded in their interpretation of the koran and hadith. These philosophies have been an active part of Islam for centuries, long before countries such as the US began their pointless incursions into Afghanistan, Iraq etc.

    Until and unless leaders in the west can name the menace for what it is, and resolve to deal with it, the Trumps and LePens of this world, with all their inherent dangers, will continue to attract support.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      These philosophies have been an active part of Islam for centuries, long before countries such as the US began their pointless incursions into Afghanistan, Iraq etc.

      [citation needed]

      And then you’d also have to prove that they were still part of Islam. Or are you also going to argue that Christianity still burns witches because they did so centuries in the past?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.2

      Only eighty-two?

      This year, there have been more “acts of terror” – mass shootings, on US soil than there have been days of the year. Since June 2004, there have been four hundred and ninety-one US drone strikes.

      I note that your figure of eighty-two includes the “Harlem Mosque Incident”, does it not? I’ll leave it to others to decide whether that’s a tad disingenuous much.

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